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Plans to construct a second terminal at the Beirut international airport have been scrapped, caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh said yesterday, after local and international actors questioned the project’s legality for bypassing public procurement regulations. Hamieh backtracked on the “mutual agreement” with semi-public Irish company Dublin Airport Authority International just days after an international call for an investigation by Irish authorities and a local call for the formation of a parliamentary committee to do the same. The public works minister announced the project last week, claiming that upon completion in 2027 it would add 2,500 new jobs, increase revenues and expand the currently overcrowded airport’s capacity by some 3.5 million travelers. A wave of backlash from NGOs and officials followed the announcement, claiming that the project should have gone through a tender process and the Public Procurement Authority.
Hundreds of Lebanese Army retirees protested the severe depreciation of their pensions and their inability to access medical care in a march from the Grand Serail in Riad al-Solh Square to the headquarters of Banque du Liban. “We demand the rights of the retired military,” a protester told L’Orient Today, while another protester drew the crowd’s applause by asking “does the prime minister accept that a family of four survives on $50 a month?” Army pensioners turned out in similar numbers last week to a protest outside the Parliament building during a joint committee session. Public employees’ salaries, pensions and health coverage have received sharp cuts due to the lira’s depreciation, leading to waves of protests — notably an eight-month open-ended strike by public administration employees and a recently launched open-ended strike by state telecom provider Ogero’s employees.
“All [state telecom provider Ogero] offices and centers are at the army's disposal,” the Ogero employees’ syndicate said, responding to a proposal from the caretaker Prime Minister and Telecoms Minister for the Lebanese Army to “take over” until the end of the telecom workers’ strike. “I don't accept that anyone takes the citizens hostage,” caretaker Telecoms Minister Johnny Corm told Radio Free Lebanon, fearing further interruptions to telecom services since Ogero employees began their strike to demand improved compensation last Friday. Ogero employees said they welcome the army’s intervention and are “ready for negotiations when things calm down.” Corm called for an urgent cabinet meeting, reiterating that a salary increase can only be granted by a government decision. A Grand Serail source said a cabinet meeting addressing public employees’ salaries will be held next week. An army spokesperson did not immediately respond to L'Orient Today's request for comment.
Caretaker Telecoms Minister Johnny Corm announced that French shipping giant CMA CGM was the sole new bidder to take over Lebanon's postal services. CMA CGM’s press office confirmed to L’Orient Today that it had submitted the last-minute bid to manage Lebanese mail. The telecoms ministry relaunched the tender in February after a first attempt to delegate postal management ended with no bidders remaining. After backing out from the first bid in January, CMA CGM denied interest in the contract. LibanPost had also backed out of the tender, though has continued to handle postal services after repeated renewal to its contract that ended in 2019. After the first bid failed, a Central Inspection source said Lebanese government contracts are “not interesting or secure enough” to attract investors.
Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil plans to file a complaint for “severe damages” after a Florida court declared it “lacks jurisdiction” to rule on a lawsuit alleging his involvement in a conspiracy to kidnap and torture two US-based plaintiffs, the party said in a statement. The two plaintiffs, Lara Mansour and Elie Samaha, allege that they were lured to Lebanon and detained by the government under harsh conditions by Bassil, former Justice Minister Salim Jreissati and Mansour’s relatives — accused by the pair of having sought to make her drop lawsuits claiming a contested inheritance. “Bassil had proven before the Lebanese judiciary the falsity and invalidity of all the allegations,” the FPM statement read, adding that he “will claim before the competent judicial authorities for the severe damages that he suffered as a result of these false allegations.” Contacted by L'Orient Today, a US embassy spokesperson declined to comment.
The second Lebanese casualty of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been confirmed to L’Orient Today. Ahmad Omar Abou al-Aaila Zakaria, hailing from the Akkar governorate in northern Lebanon, joined a Ukrainian engineering regiment after the start of the war “to take up arms as a tribute to his Ukrainian roots,” said Ahmad Krounbi, a longtime resident of Kyiv, Ukraine. Zakaria and his family left Lebanon at the onset of the economic crisis in 2019, Krounbi continued, adding that “Hussein Mahdi, 38, from South Lebanon, also lost his life fighting in eastern Ukraine." Krounbi said he knows “around 15 Lebanese-Ukrainians who are fighting right now.” Russian troops entered Ukraine in the early hours of Feb. 24, 2022, launching one of the largest conflicts Europe has seen since World War II. A year later, Ukrainian cities have been reduced to rubble, part of the country is under Russian occupation and both sides have killed or wounded more than 150,000 people each, according to Western estimates.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Everything you need to know about the airport extension controversy”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Plans to construct a second terminal at the Beirut international airport have been scrapped, caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh said yesterday, after local and international actors questioned the project’s legality for bypassing public procurement regulations. Hamieh backtracked on the “mutual agreement” with semi-public...